Against My Better Judgement [The Last Year of Remus Lupin]
"He woke up from dreaming and put on his shoes."
Remembering Sunday, All Time Low
The word hits him like a tonne of bricks.
Tonks is stood before him, beaming, and her hands are cradling her abdomen carefully. After a moment of silence, her smile seems to slip a little and suddenly there is caution and fear in her eyes. "Remus...?" She asks carefully.
Remus feels like he's going to be sick. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. He isn't particularly sure how it was supposed to happen, but this was not what he had envisioned when he had walked down a makeshift aisle with Nymphadora two months ago.
Tonks is not smiling at all now.
"Remus?" she asks again, only this time she's begging, and she takes his hand in her own and tries to entwine their fingers together. Her fingers are small and slim; he can feel the bones in her wrists and they are entirely breakable. He pulls his hand away irritably and stands up, turning away from her.
"Remus... please..." Tonks wheels him around to face her, and there are tears in her eyes now. Remus simply shakes his head, and without another glance, turns to walk away.
She doesn't follow him.
Remus spends the next few days travelling. He walks down nondescript road after nondescript road. When he gets tired he gets on a bus or a train. At the end of the line, he gets off and walks again. At night he checks into B&Bs. He sleeps for the minimum amount of time necessary, and then forces himself back onto his feet, and begins to walk again.
After six days, Remus thinks he might die of exhaustion if he carries on like this. He can't remember the last thing that he ate. He doesn't know if this is a good or a bad thing anymore.
On the spur of the moment, Remus decides to visit Grimmauld Place.
Harry is there, like Remus knew he would be.
Remus sits with the teenagers, and talks with them – they are desperate for news of the outside world. It is easy – not so different from Hogwarts all those years ago. Being with them is as natural as breathing. Remus looks at Harry carefully when no-one is watching. Being with Harry is as close to having one of his best friends back as humanely possible.
Remus offers to go with them.
Harry says no.
There is a moment of charged silence, and then Remus loses control. He throws his chair on the floor and screams and shouts and tries to pull his hair out. Ron looks terrified, sat bolt upright and pale; Hermione looks stricken, and there are tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. They don't understand after all; they are too young, too foolhardy- they don't know, can't see what he's done, what a mess he's made. They are too much like his school friends, their seventeen-year-old selves frozen - blissfully trusting and naive - in time.
Harry is looking on with cold indifference. He says something; Remus doesn't know what, but the words burn like fire and it hurts worse than transforming, worse than anything. For the first time in his life, Remus feels that he is cracking up - that he is splintering into a thousand tiny fragments.
He grabs his wands and points it at Harry. And then he runs.
Remus Apparates, but he doesn't know where. He stumbles a few meters to his right, and then is violently sick everywhere. Some of it splashes onto his shoes.
Remus collapses, rolling back towards his left, away from the vomit. He is shaking. His face is wet; he doesn't know whether it's raining or whether he's crying.
The moon is beginning to rise. With a numb sense of dread, Remus realises it's full. He doesn't think his life can get much worse.
Remus is running. Runningrunningrunningrunning. He feels like he'll never stop.
The moon is bright and round and full. Remus screams at it. His makes his throat burn. He does it again, anyway.
There is a strange feeling between his back legs, and the sound of running water. The fur there is wet now, with a funny smell. Remus whines and paws the ground. He sniffs; scenting.
And Remus is running again. He runs for what could be minutes or hours or days, but he does not feel tired. There is safety in the repetitive coil and stretch of muscle, and in the sound of four paws pounding the ground again and again.
He descends on them, tearing and biting, a screaming mass of teeth and claws, and foaming at the mouth; the blood tastes wrong, but it is still blood, and Remus knows that blood is good.
Blood is good.
Remus wakes up naked, in the middle of a field, surrounded by the bloodied corpses of sheep.
Remus knows he has to go home. He stands on the door step, and it seems like a long time before he feels comfortable enough to ring the doorbell.
When the door is opened, Tonks is there. She looks pale, and has purplish circles under her eyes - Remus is sure they match his own – and she is wearing a jumper which is too big for her. With a guilty pang in his chest, Remus realises it's his jumper.
They stand and stare at each other in silence, until suddenly, Tonks throws herself at him, locks her arms around his neck, and begins to cry. Remus returns her embrace, gently, because she seems so much smaller than when he left her.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs into her hair, which is mousy brown again, "I keep making you cry, don't I?"
"It's okay..." She whispers back, choking on her sobs, "You're home now."
Remus doesn't know how, but with one line, Nymphadora seems able to absolve the sins of his existence.
The next morning, Remus makes breakfast. Tonks is chirping away about something, and Remus is only half-listening. Her hair is shockingly violet.
Remus is thinking about his friends. He is trying to decide whether they would have approved of his decisions or not.
James would have smiled at him understandingly, and then pushed his glasses up his nose a little. He would have sighed and said, "Marriage is about give-and-take, I suppose," or something equally ambiguous, which probably would have left Remus more confused about his opinion than before he'd asked. Then James would have thrown his head back and laughed, and ruffled Remus' hair, and told him not to think so much.
Sirius would have quirked an eyebrow at Remus, and said that he was disappointed at Remus for leaving him to be a bachelor alone. Then he would have tipped his chair back, and winked at Remus and said, "Geez, Moony, she's really got you whipped, hasn't she?" and laughed his barking laugh.
Peter would have given a nervous snigger and an awkward shrug and –
Remus squeezes the glass in his hand too hard and it shatters into crystalline splinters. Tonks jumps.
"Remus, you're bleeding," she cries, "Normally, I'm the clumsy one." She shoots him a small smile.
She pulls his hand under the tap, and the water runs red.
Andromeda fixes Remus with a disapproving stare.
"So..." she says, and Remus notes that the cadences in her voice are surprisingly similar to the intonations in Sirius' voice, "Have you thought of any names for the baby, Remus?"
Remus is shocked into stunned silence. Andromeda has never spoken to him unnecessarily before, and this seemingly random attempt to engage him in conversation is like a bolt out of the blue. Instantly, he is struck with the urge to impress her.
The only names that spring to the forefront of Remus' mind are "James" and "Sirius"; the look in Andromeda's eyes tell him that either name would be unacceptable.
Instead, Remus shrugs and says that, no, he hasn't really thought about it, and Andromeda's mouth purses a little, but she says nothing.
Her eyes say it all.
That night in bed, Tonks strokes Remus' arm, and whispers, "Don't worry about Mum. She'll come round."
Remus thinks that even for a Black who ran away with a muggle-born, accepting a werewolf into the family with open arms would be asking for one step too far. There are some traditions and prejudices that are too difficult to break, even for the apparent rebel.
Tonks' belly grows bigger and bigger, and Remus feels the anxious, nervous feeling creeping back into his stomach. Full moons come and go, and Tonks tells him every month that it's okay, that she's okay. Remus thinks that if he hears the word 'okay' again, he might scream or shout or break something. Things are obviously not okay.
Everyday life is a struggle. It is not so different from how Remus remembers it before; the first war. He knows that Tonks doesn't remember it at all, and it makes him feel old
One night, Remus leaves Tonks sleeping in bed, and stands in the kitchen. The moon is waning, and it makes Remus' joints ache. If anyone asks, he will say he is there for a glass of water.
Two hours later, Tonks stumbles downstairs, rubbing the sleep from her eyes; Remus is shocked at how big she really is. He realises, with a sense of numb surprise, that the baby is due in two months. Remus wonders what happened to the last seven months of his life – they seem to have wasted away into nothingness and dreams.
"Wotcher," Tonks mumbles, fisting her hands into the material of his pyjama shirt, and snuggling her head into his chest, "What are you doing up? It's 4am."
"Mmmm... I know," Remus mumbles noncommittally, and wraps his arms around her.
He doesn't tell her that he was there for a glass of water, and she doesn't ask. Instead, they stand there for what seems like a lifetime, entwined in their own world.
Andromeda is in the living room, crying. Nymphadora is upstairs. Remus knows she's crying too.
Remus hovers in the hallway of the Tonks family house, entirely uncomfortable. He feels like an imposter that he shouldn't be there, imposing on their grief.
Ted Tonks is dead, hunted down by Death Eaters, and Remus knows from firsthand experience there is nothing he can do to make it better.
He walks into the kitchen, and sits down at the table, idly tracing the grain of the wood with his index finger. He gets up, and switches on the kettle, but the sound of the boiling water is too loud in the hushed house, so Remus turns it off again. He goes to walk out of the room – to find Tonks, to say something to try and help to ease the pain – but at the last minute, he loses his nerve and sits back down at the kitchen table.
The clock ticks and time marches on, and Remus is still sat in the kitchen soaking up the heady silence.
When Tonks comes downstairs, her eyes are red-rimmed. She sits at the table, next to Remus, and he interlinks their fingers. She gives him a small smile, but her eyes swim with tears.
Andromeda enters the kitchen a few minutes later. She is moving like she has aged thirty years and every step is a great effort. She puts the kettle on to make tea; it is still too noisy for the heavy silence, but no-one says anything. Remus finds a cup of tea placed in front of him, and he drinks it obediently, although really, he prefers coffee.
Suddenly, Tonks gasps and grabs his hand – luckily, not the one curled around the cup of hot liquid – and presses it to her swelled stomach.
"The baby's kicking," she whispers in awe, and her eyes are wide and full of wonder - despite the red rings - the same way they are every time the baby kicks. "Our little boy,"
Remus smiles at her indulgently, and inspiration hits him.
"Let's name him Ted," he says, almost unthinking.
"What?" Tonks breathes, and her eyes dart from where they have been staring at his hand pressed contently against her abdomen, up to look him in the eyes, "Are- What? Remus, I..."
"Really," Remus says, and he is suddenly filled with a quiet confidence that this is exactly the right thing to do. "Ted – Teddy. Teddy Lupin."
Tonks presses her lips together until they form a thin, white line and her eyes fill with tears. She nods, presses her forehead into the space where Remus' neck meets his shoulder, and begins to sob quietly. Across the table, Andromeda is holding her cup of tea in both hands, but not drinking it. She is staring out of the window, and her eyes are also swimming with tears, but unlike Nymphadora's, hers don't fall.
The trio go back to sitting in silence, but this time, it is comfortable despite its sadness.
When Tonks sniffles that she's going upstairs to blow her nose, and leaves the room, Andromeda looks directly at Remus for the first time that day.
"Thank-you," she whispers quietly, "Thank-you, Remus."
Remus is waiting. Time is crawling by. Tonks is upstairs in the bedroom, with Andromeda and two Healers.
She's been up there for the last six hours.
Remus sits on the sofa. Then he stands. Then he paces. He sits in the arm chair. He picks up The Daily Prophet and leafs through it. He puts it down without reading any of it. He goes into the kitchen to make a drink. The clock strikes 3am and makes him jump. He goes back into the living room and sits down on the sofa.
And repeat, ad infinitum.
Eventually, after what seems like a lifetime, Andromeda comes downstairs.
"You have a son, Remus," she smiles.
Remus gapes at her for a moment, then springs to his feet, pushes past Andromeda, through the narrow door-frame, and sprints up the stairs two at a time.
Tonks is laying in the bed, sweaty hair plastered to her forehead and bruise-like bags under her eyes. She is cradling a tiny, bawling baby, swaddled in white cloth.
Remus stops in the doorway of the bedroom, just watching and he realises that he is grinning and grinning like he hasn't for so long, and that there are tears forming in the corners of his eyes, and Tonks is crying and laughing too, and she says, "Remus, we have a baby,"
And Remus, just for a moment, feels complete.
Remus is sure he can never get enough of Teddy. He is endlessly fascinating.
Remus has been holding Teddy for the last three hours, carrying him around the house and talking quietly to him. Teddy has been watching Remus intently with his big, round eyes. Normally being surveyed so closely – even by a baby – makes Remus feel more than a little nervous. Remus remembers awkwardly holding Harry as a baby, and being unable to shake the feeling that Harry knew what he was – but Teddy is something different. Remus feels that even if Teddy does know what he is, that he doesn't care. Being with Teddy is as natural as breathing.
Andromeda bustles into the room – she has been more animated since Teddy's birth. Upon seeing Remus carrying Teddy around, he shoots him a mildly annoyed glance, but is accompanied by a small smile. "You shouldn't pander to him like that, Remus," she chides, "You're just spoiling him. He'll cry when you put him down."
Remus just smiles and nods, but doesn't put Teddy down. Andromeda rolls her eyes a little, and leaves the room, but she is humming and there is a spring in her step that wouldn't have been there three weeks ago. Remus thinks that Teddy really is a miracle.
Remus sits down, and turns on the wireless, and puts 'Potterwatch' on quietly in the background. He knows he really ought to be listening to the broadcast, but right now, Teddy is much, much more interesting; he has wrapped his tiny fist around Remus' index finger, and Remus can't seem to tear his eyes off of him.
Remus looks up, and Tonks is standing, leaning on the door post. She is wearing Remus' jumper again – Remus wonders if it can technically be counted as his jumper anymore, as Tonks seems to get more use out of it than he does.
"He's wonderful, isn't he?" Tonks murmurs and her voice is bursting with pride and joy, "He's like – half you and half me!" Tonks gives him a crazy grin; her eyes sparkle, and Remus thinks that he couldn't love her more.
"Our baby," Remus agrees softly, and shifts Teddy's weight slightly so that he can hold him with one arm – with other arm freed, he catches Tonks' hand in his own. She sits on the sofa next to him, and rests her head on his shoulder.
There is a pause and Remus frowns, a crease appearing between his eyebrows. "Your mother thinks I'm pandering to him," he admits, rather sheepishly.
Remus can feel Tonks smile against his shoulder. "I wouldn't worry about it – it's just how Mum is. I'm sure if it were up to her, she'd leave him to raise himself... She's a big believer in 'tough-love'. I think it was how she was raised," Tonks yawns, and snuggles down further onto Remus' shoulder.
Remus cannot think of an appropriate reply, so instead he gives a, "Mmmm..." and turns his attentions to Teddy. He gazes into Teddy's eyes – they have remained very, very blue, despite him being a few weeks old now. Remus finds this odd, as no-one in either his or Tonks' family have blue eyes.
Teddy blinks, and when his eyes open again, they are amber, like Remus'.
Remus feels frozen to the spot. Teddy is sucking on his own fist, gurgling contently to himself. Remus is not sure if he dreamt what just happened - Teddy takes his slobbery fist out of his mouth, and reaches up to touch Remus' face.
Remus knows that babies' eyes are supposed to change colour, but he's not sure that it's supposed to happen that quickly. Remus closes his eyes and counts to five - normally he would count to ten, but he doesn't want to take his eyes off Teddy for too long.
When he opens his eyes again, Teddy has the oddest expression on his face... his nose is slightly screwed up, and he looks as if he were concentrating on something, very hard. His hair turns a violent shade of aqua.
"Tonks...?" Remus croaks quietly.
"Wazzat, Remus?" she mumbles, still dozing against his shoulder, and she frowns a little.
"Tonks," Remus whispers, his voice more sure this time, "I think our son may be a Metamorphmagus."
Tonks opens one eye, gives Remus a quizzical look, and then looks over at Teddy. Upon seeing his aqua-coloured hair, she gives a soft, "Oh," and looks back at Remus. Then she throws her head back and laughs.
Teddy, in Remus' arms, startles at the sudden noise, and begins to cry. Tonks cringes, "Ooops."
She stands up, and Remus passes Teddy to her. Tonks seems to know instinctively how to told Teddy, having none of the initial awkwardness that always seemed to curse Remus whenever he was faced with a new situation.
"Shush, shush, don't cry," Tonks coos at her son, walking over to the mantelpiece, rocking Teddy in time with her footsteps, "It's okay, baby, mama's here,"
Teddy quietens in Tonks' arms, and Remus stands and walks over to his wife, wrapping an arm around her waist. She leans into his body, and he presses a kiss against her forehead.
"Our son is amazing," Remus murmurs, and Tonks smiles.
"With parents like us, it'd be hard for him not to be," she jokes, and leans up, on tiptoes, to kiss him on the mouth.
A jet of green light hits Nymphadora above her heart, and Remus' world turns to ice.
He can hear Bellatrix's scream of triumph, and he lets out a roar of anger, turning and trying to push his way through the crowds of duelling wizards. The Death Eater he was previously fighting gave a loud "OI!" of indignation.
Tonks is falling through the air.
He can still save her.
Remus is dodging curses from all directions, but reaching Tonks is the most important think right now. His mind is screaming her name - TonksTonksTonksTonks.
I can still save you.
Remus feels like he's going to be sick. This is definitely not how it was supposed to happen – because now, he knew how it was supposed to happen – he was supposed to marry the woman he loved and that loved him, and have a beautiful son, and live happily ever after. This wasn't what Remus had envisioned when he had held Nymphadora and Teddy in his arms in the living room of the Tonks' family house.
The next jet of green light hits Remus squarely in the chest.
His eyes widen a little.
Tonks, he thinks, and Teddy! I've got to –
Remus waits for the next heartbeat to come. It doesn't.